Arsenal: Santi Cazorla May Still Be Our Magician

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Santi Cazorla of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on September 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Santi Cazorla of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on September 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /
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Although Santi Cazorla is currently sidelined, it is not outside the realm of possibility that he could once again become Arsenal’s magician.

Even though I try not to think about it, or write it, I’m captivated by the ongoing stories regarding the Arsenal futures of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. I cannot help it.

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The January transfer window is three months away, but I’m already preparing for the inevitable. I’m preparing for life without the two. That said, recently a thought came to my mind which excited me: the return of Santi Cazorla.

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My excitement is founded on the notion that Cazorla could replace the creativity and the magic that we would lose with the departures of Özil and Alexis.

Whether or not Arsene Wenger decides to persist with the 3-4-2-1, Arsenal lack innovation without Özil and Alexis. Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi bring different qualities to the table. We’re all well aware of the faults that Özil and Alexis possess. But there is no denying their importance to the team, especially from an offensive production standpoint.

Even though it finished 0-0, the performance away at Chelsea was very encouraging. Without their two best players, they produced a disciplined defensive performance. I would even argue that they should have come away with three points.

Post-match, I stumbled upon an engaging analysis by James Olley of the London Evening Standard. Within the analysis, there was a brief section discussing the absence of Arsenal’s playmakers.

"During Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil’s time at the club, Arsenal have never won a Premier League game in which both did not start.With the pair currently running down the final year of their existing contracts, the Gunners may have to get used to their absence in big matches next year and here was a glimpse of life without them.It was surprising just how promising it looked, particularly in the first half when Arsenal were well organised, disciplined and grew in confidence as the 45 minutes wore on.The Gunners lacked a little stardust in the final third but the priority here was to show more fundamental qualities of work ethic and fight – Wenger’s side could not be faulted in that regard this time."

It was only one game, but I agree with everything that Olley said. When it comes to the lack of stardust, that is where Santi Cazorla comes to the fore.

Cazorla arrived from Málaga CF as a diminutive, versatile and inventive attacking midfielder. Prior to his latest injury, Cazorla was being deployed in a deeper midfield role, in which he was thriving. He is a joy to watch thanks to his outstanding touch, ingenuity and distribution.

Cazorla’s contract expires at the end of this season, but an extension makes sense for both parties. Arsenal tend to offer players who are over the age of thirty one-year extensions, but that could be perfect in this scenario.

Questions will be asked as to whether Cazorla could return to his previous level of play. He’ll turn 33 in December, and he’s not played since October 2016. But we all know the calibre of player that he is. The reward, in this hypothetical scenario, is far greater than the risk.

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He could play as the creative hub just off the striker or dictate play from central midfield. Either way, Santi Cazorla could very well become our magician once again. If so, it would mean that his story at Arsenal Football Club would require a new chapter.